Autumn seems to be a time of nostalgic holding on, while everything in nature starts to let go. To me, the best example of this nostalgia is football season. An Irish bartender in Ann Arbor told me that he didn’t get the obsession that Americans have with college sports. Professional sports? Sure. But intense school rivalries and days of football games, which many seem to plan their weeks around, seemed silly to him.
As I thought about this, I shared that football seems to be something that bonds communities from the time we are kids going to high school games, to college students continuing the tradition, to alumni traveling near and far to attend their alma mater’s homecoming. Regardless of whether or not someone goes to college, if they’ve been raised in a family of football fans, they probably learn fast who to root for and who to boo the minute the opposing team enters the field. The same way children often develop similar religious and political views from their parents (unless they’re sparked to go their own way and question what’s been put before them), they too, might become a fan of a college they have little experience with.
For those looking forward to football season, it’s one of the familiar comforts that is synonymous with autumn. For myself, it’s the month of October that gets me excited. It means Halloween, new Stranger Things episodes, Monster Mash dance parties in the kitchen, pumpkin carvings, orange lights on the windows, a time of costume parties, and colorful leaves panting vibrant amber, ruby, and golden orange colors across the sky. Halloween, like football, brings a throwback to childhood. I stood in line at CVS today, holding a bag of candy corn that smelled amazing, but I passed it aside to the cashier, thinking about wanting to lose weight and avoid sugar. My, how the times have changed…but I ate chocolate chips at home afterwards, so maybe things aren’t all that different. 😉
Reminiscing on the past can be both wonderful and miserable. Depending on how life has changed year to year, we might miss things in fall that are not there anymore. One year, it was a boy who was no longer in my city. This year, it’s my mother. The year I graduated college, it was that weird feeling of not having a place to go reunite with my friends; we all went our separate ways, and none of us would be gathering together for an annual “kick off to fall” campus party.
In teaching a meditation class this week, I brought a theme to everyone about autumn. It was centered around reflecting on the “season of their life.” I asked the class to feel within them all that has happened this year, noticing if their colors had shifted or changed. Were they different people than the people they were in January or in June? Were there any leaves they were holding on to that needed to be released? Could they look at the season of their life, without judging the year as “good” or “bad,” and make space to accept themselves and their circumstances exactly as they have unfolded? As my Muay Thai instructor says regularly, “Empty your mind. Start over. Don’t think too much. Nothing is bad. Nothing is right or wrong. Everything is feeling.”
In fall, perhaps more so than any other season, we are asked to go with the flow. In Michigan, there tends to be a battle between the seasons. Maybe the gods of weather are watching football too and yelling at the referee making bad calls. In October, we tend to expect that the weather here will be breezy, sunny, and at a happy medium of 60-70 degrees. Yet, at the beginning of one week, it was rainy, 45 degrees, and a frost warning was issued for the night. A few days later, it was a gorgeous sunny day with highs in the 80’s. I’m sure it’s a combination of global warming and the location of our state surrounded by all sorts of water, but it seems like weather is always inconsistent. Maybe this is why meditation masters have spoken about becoming like a mountain on the mat, letting thoughts pass like clouds.
We know that every thought is temporary. Some thoughts make us cry (rain), some thoughts create thunder and lightening (anger), some thoughts make us smile with joy (sunshine), and some thoughts are confusing, scattered, and hard to understand (cloudy, excessive wind, freezing cold air, hail, etc.). We might spiral in our minds and feel irritable and exhausted, like a tornado has torn through us. We might feel blissed out on a beach without a cloud in sight. Yet, with every breath, the more we notice these thoughts and let them move along, without attaching or obsessing on them, we might start to see that the mountain experiencing all this changing weather (us), remains itself, unchanged. Trees can tumble, forest fires can ignite, and landslides can dramatically shift the surface of the mountain, but its solid foundation holds up anything and everything. Eventually, nature recovers itself. So too, do we.
Becoming mindful is that daily practice of catching ourselves. When we fall off the wagon, we can learn to be compassionate and say, “it’s okay, let’s try again later.” It’s learning to make healthy choices, like choosing not to stalk our ex’s social media profile and taking a walk outside instead. It’s becoming aware of what’s happening now, versus what happened then. It’s learning to appreciate the love of our friends who are already around us, supporting us day by day, rather than chasing something outside of ourselves that we think will bring us joy. It’s letting life unfold, without worrying too much about what the timeline looks like. It’s trusting that if we let go of the one thing we think we can’t let go of, for just a moment, we truly will be okay. We might even be happier than we thought possible. We might realize we don’t need to hold ourselves to rigid standards or live in constant stress to feel productive. We might even learn that it’s okay to settle into ease and enjoy the little things.
Here’s my blessing to you: as fall begins the nostalgic journey into football games, Halloween, Thanksgiving, and the winter holidays, may you use the falling leaves to help you practice falling into the flow of the seasons. May this seasonal flow guide you into the seasons of your ever-changing heart. May you feel peace with loving kindness, and the truth that you have the majesty, strength, and power of the greatest mountain. No matter what your team’s scoreboard says at the end of the fourth quarter, know that you were made to be a champion. Know that each day you wake up, and courageously choose to live through whatever life presents on your path, you have a victory worth celebrating. Enjoy the practice. Enjoy the highs and lows. Know that this too, shall pass.
Peace, love, and apple cider,